By Craig Henderson
Student Life Editor
On Saturday, Nov. 8, the Indian American Student Association (IASA), in collaboration with the Indian Graduate Student Association (IGSA), hosted Diwali, Festival of Lights, at the University Center in Kochoff Hall.
According to kids.nationalgeographic.com, also called Deepawali, translated to ‘row of clay lamps,’ is a festival that lasts five days. Indian citizens light lamps outside their homes to keep away spiritual darkness. This Hindu holiday is equivalent to Christmas for Christians.
This Indian holiday has many similarities to Northern America’s Christmas such as family togetherness, fireworks, lighting decorations, bonfires, distribution of candy and sweets, and most of all, to worship Lakshmi.
The Hindu belief is that the Goddess of Wealth and Beauty strolls the planet looking for homes where she will be invited. The lamps and lights are meant to give her the invitation to come in.
The holiday celebration at the University of Michigan-Dearborn started with a welcome from Vice President of ISGA and the Vice President of IASA. The introduction included India’s National Anthem and four videos that showed recognition for Diwali from President Barack Obama, Kitkat, a clip explaining the holiday celebration by national geographic, and a video featuring a speech from the Prime Minister of India to the Indian Army.
Reetha Raveendran, Director for Student Engagement, also gave words of welcome and said, “The turnout with this event is amazing with the number of students, alumni, parents and families.”
Raveendran says that the difference with celebrating the holiday in the United States is that it’s not with family. Considering many of the attendants shared the same religion and culture, she continued, “In terms of celebrating, breaking bread together is the same. Friends become family when you’re not away from home.”
The festivity continued with a rangoli competition. This contest was designed to give hands on experience for something Indians do during Diwali. Rangoli is drawn at the entrance of the house to welcome goddess Lakshmi.
There are various rangoli designs and some draw Lord Ganesha and other draw designs; the artwork varies on the skills and talents of individuals working on rangoli. Plenty of groups drew Lord Ganesha as part of their rangoli; however, a few other groups chose to do miscellaneous works of art such as a soccer field or the University of Michigan logo.
President of the Indian American Student Association, Drashti Patel, says, “The turnout was really good.” She added that her favorite part of the Hindu holiday is all of the Diwali festival.
Engineering student, Shiva Teja says that the different colors with rangoli also reflect Indian diversity. “The different colors in Rangoli make our lives colorful. They represent different Gods and cultures as well.”
Arundhathi Hadagali, Vice President of IASA, says this is her first year being a part of IASA and she is surprised with how many people came. She continued with, “My favorite part about Diwali is being with my family. When we come together, we make time to cook, pray to Goddess Lakshmi and light fire crackers at night.”
Vishnu Makam, Vice President of IGSA, shared that lighting the clay lamps and fireworks are his favorite parts.
The winner of the contest was a design of Ganesha, Lord of Success, which had a yellow circle outline with red coloring and a blue background.